Fighting For Fair

The Parent Trap

Should You Feel Guilty Getting Cash From Mom And Dad?

BY Liz KnuevenMay 17, 2019

If you’re in your 20s like me, you’re likely no stranger to finding creative ways to make and save money.

Maybe you’ve got a side hustle, maybe you’ve turned to an “alternative living” space in place of an actual apartment—or maybe you’re just straight up skipping rent by living at home with the ‘rents.

As long as it’s legal, there’s no shame in doing what you have to do to make your bottom line work. Fact is, it’s a hard time to be starting out. Wages are stubbornly stagnant, rents are high, and a good number of us are starting our adult lives deep in the red due to student debt and other financial realities.

iStock-914810760 Taking money from your parents can come with an even tougher conversation with your friends.

But even among my friends, there’s one method for getting by that always has the potential to spark a sometimes uncomfortable conversation: getting money from your parents.

That’s different than living with your folks, mind you. After all, there’s an inherent and upfront honesty in residing under mom and dad’s roof that says plain as day: “Hey, I’m doing what I can here, people. Just give me some time to figure it out.”

And while a monthly handover from the parentals can indeed be handled with this same level of humility, it can also be easily and quietly laundered in support of an urban chic lifestyle whose sheen of self-suffiency is built on the lie of a regular bank transfer.

And whether you find the practice repellent or a relief, supplementing one’s regular income with money from the folks is undeniably rampant among my millennial set.

According to the New York Times, researchers at the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan found that almost 40 percent of those aged 22 to 24 get some sort of support from their parents for living expenses.

iStock-1006641326 Trust funds, monthly parental handouts, and other forms of "family help" can give some a head start, while amplifying feelings of struggle for those who don't have such options.

The amount and likelihood of support varied based on where someone was from and what they studied. Young people, for example, are more likely to receive help if they live in an urban area. Those who studied art and design tend to receive by far the most help from their parents—on average $3,600 each year. Meanwhile, the average amount of annual living expense assistance among all those who receive support is $3,000.

The least likely to receive help from the folks? Those doing blue-collar jobs or providing personal services—whether it’s because those jobs often don’t require an expensive college degree or because they are slowly becoming more lucrative than jobs that do require such degrees.

In an era where parents undertake elaborate schemes to get their kids into elite colleges and being “self-made” can mean being born under the career tutelage of Kris Jenner, it seems that mom and dad have never been a bigger part of making your way as a young adult. For some people my age, this might add up to relatively innocent forms of parental drafting, such as ongoing use of the folks’ Netflix password and the occasional free meal during a visit. For others, it means being “#blessed” with family members who can magically make $1,100 appear in your bank account each month—alongside $2,100 in rent money.

iStock-1131650060 It's hard to blame anyone for accepting help from their parents, but the flip side can be super frustrating.

Truthfully, I can’t say I blame anyone for taking this kind of help. After all, if someone wanted to just drop my rent money plus a thousand or so in my bank account each month, I’m not sure I’d stop them. In fact, I can’t even take the high road on the issue. Besides a solid upbringing, my parents also gave me my old bedroom back for my first year out of college, which allowed me to snag a local marketing job for $15 an hour. Sure, it wasn’t how I thought I’d spend my first post-collegiate year. But I also acknowledge that there are a LOT of people in the world with no such advantages who would consider that level of help a true financial godsend.

Truth is, the issue of getting financial help from one’s parents spans too many realities and specifics to lend itself to a simple classification—and as an art school grad now living in Seattle, I feel like I’ve witnessed a good number of them. I’ve flushed with jealousy over jaw-dropping stories of parentally financed urban living, but I’ve also seen how beneficial some of this help has been for friends of mine that truly needed and appreciated it. And I feel like I’ve learned a lot about my own limits and capabilities by having graduated from getting parental aid myself and embracing a certain scrappiness that comes with forging out on one’s own.

And while I do believe there are ways for millennials like me to get by that don’t involve asking our parents for an allowance well into our 20s, I freely acknowledge that I live every day of my life with a whole host of advantages from having been raised in a stable home by truly loving parents—which is the biggest present anyone could ever get from back home.

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